VHSL approves changes to state tournaments

The Virginia High School League recently approved some big changes at an Executive Committee meeting that will affect area teams.

The VHSL has decided to move the venues for state tournaments around, starting with 2016-17 school year. Among the changes in venues is Group 3A and 4A state football finals moving to the College of William and Mary for at least the next two years, after having been held at Liberty University for a number of years. The Group 1A and 2A state football finals will still be held in Salem, with Group 5A and 6A moving from the University of Virginia to Hampton University.

“As long as they get the information out about what’s going to be where a couple years in advance, I think it’s fine they’re trying to do that,” Strasburg athletic director Matt Hiserman said. “I think there’s some venues they’ve used for a long time that need some upgrading and need some changes done. If they can’t do (the upgrades) then hopefully they find some places that are a little bit nicer and more up to date for having state competitions.”

There will be some changes to the wrestling state tournaments as well. Group 1A, 2A and 3A will still be held at the Salem Civic Center, but Group 4A will join Group 5A and 6A at the Norfolk Scope. There will also be a 12-man bracket instead of an 8-man bracket for Group 4A, 5A and 6A.

Warren County athletic director Ed Dike said he is not happy that 1A, 2A and 3A are still being held at Salem, where they’ve been for many years.

“They said they were not going to renew it down there this year. There was a lot of people that were very, very happy,” Dike said. “Then come to find out it’s only 4, 5, and 6 that are going to a better facility — that kind of irritated me. That was not what was proposed. The 5 and 6 wanted to go together. The 3 and the 4 wanted to go together, and the 1’s and the 2’s wanted to go together.”

There will also be changes in the spring season. The Group 1A and 2A state tournaments will still be held in Radford, but Group 3A and 4A are moving from Liberty University to Salem. The track and field will also change. The Group 1A and 2A state track meet is moving from Radford University to Harrisonburg High School, which is where Group 3A and 4A have its state meet. The Group 3A and 4A state track and field meet will be held at Sports Backers Stadium in Richmond for 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years.

With the changes approved at the May 5 meeting, there are no events scheduled to be held at Liberty University at this time. On April 15 a story in the Washington Post reported that debaters from at least five Northern Virginia high schools boycotted the VHSL state debate tournament held at Liberty University due to comments by Jerry Falwell Jr. in December that they considered to be anti-Muslim.

There will also be some changes with state boys and girls basketball tournaments. The state quarterfinal and semifinal games will be played on the same week and will be held at designated supersites, with the finals taking place the following weekend at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The state quarterfinal games will take place on Thursday and Friday with the semifinals being held on Saturday. There will be four games each day. Each classification will take place at a different supersite, with the supersites rotating each year. Next year Group 1A will play at Virginia High School, 2A will be held at James Madison University, 3A will be held at VCU, 4A will be held at Salem Civic Center, 5A will be held at Old Dominion University and 6A will be held at James W. Robinson Secondary School.

The state finals will take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday at VCU. There will be four games each day.

This past year the state quarterfinals were held at supersites, and the semifinals and finals for the six classifications were spread out over the course of one week at VCU.

Hiserman said he thinks the new format will be better for fans, who will be able to come and see the games on the weekend instead of during the early part of the week.

“It does take away from the true fan that wants to come watch everything at the same venue,” Hiserman said. “But until they decide to do something else — put the girls one week, the boys another week, stuff like that — do some big modifications, they’re going to have to do something like this. People aren’t going to come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.”

There will also be another change for basketball season the next school year. The VHSL approved a mercy rule. Any time a team leads by 30 or more points in the fourth quarter there will be a running clock. However, that does not include during free throws, timeouts, injuries and the administration of technical fouls.

Each district has the right to not use the mercy rule if it wants to. Hiserman said the Bull Run District hasn’t talked about it yet, but he’s not sure how much the rule would really speed up the game, which is what it is designed to do.

“Basically the only time it’s going to keep running is a dead ball situation, so you’re only talking about 20 or 30 seconds here or there,” Hiserman said. “…It’s kind of different. I know that other states have it. It will take a while to get used to.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com